PARKERSBURG, Iowa — The mother of the man who shot and killed a legendary Aplington-Parkersburg coach is raising awareness about mental illness through the pages of a new book.
“There are some very difficult places here, but it’s the reality of it,” Joan Becker said.
It’s tough for even Joan Becker to read what she wrote in the book that she recently finished.
“I want people to understand this is my story of how I saw and lived through this ordeal,” Joan Becker said.
Tuesday, June 24, marks five years since Aplington-Parkersburg football coach Ed Thomas was murdered. Former student Mark Becker shot and killed him in the school’s temporary weight room in 2009. Thomas was working with a group of student athletes when Becker opened fire, hitting Thomas several times.
Joan said she started keeping a journal when Mark was in high school, writing details about the episodes he experienced. One story recalls the time Mark mentioned Ed Thomas during one of his delusions in the middle of the night.
“You don’t believe me do you? Can’t you see? Thomas is sending them to attack me. They are here right now. Maybe I better go to town and talk some sense into Ed and you guys too,” Becker said as she read an excerpt from her book.
She said Mark struggles with Paranoid Schizophrenia. The book also includes recent letters from her son talking about his experiences.
Joan said the family was desperately trying to get a diagnosis when the tragedy happened, but an appointment with a psychiatrist wasn’t scheduled until July.
“They tried to get him in but because of the shortage of psychiatrists that was a July appointment — too late for our son,” Becker said.
Joan knows, however, that it’s not too late to help other families. She hopes to push others to ask more questions about mental illness and to never give up hope that things can get better.
“I can be open and if that helps other people trying to deal with this illness, families or individuals themselves, then it is so worth putting ourselves out there,” Becker said.
Joan says Mark wasn’t officially diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia until after he was incarcerated. He is currently serving a life sentence. She visits him about once a month and says he’s getting the treatment he needs.
Joan is hopeful the book will be published soon, and said she plans to give any proceeds to organizations that help people with mental health issues.